Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Decorative Letters DIY

Since the weather outside is FRIGHTFUL and I have yet another snow day (4th one this week!), I thought I would share a DIY from earlier in the year that I never got around to sharing. 
While in World Market this summer, I fell IN LOVE with these world map block letters.
I wanted them for my classroom (since my theme this year is maps and geography) as well as for my guest room when the year is over. They cost about $8.00 a piece but, having made my comic book ones for last year's super hero classroom theme, I knew they would be super easy to make.
So, I went to Hobby Lobby and bought cardboard block letters for $2.00 a peice - bought an old vintage, 1970's atlas at a thrift store for $0.50 and made my own.
First, you want to make sure that the map parts that will be showing are what you want. Check to make sure that sections of the land or water that you want are not going to be cut away. You may choose a different map depending on the letter you are placing it on. 

Begin cutting the map - make sure that you leave about a centimeter hangover so that you can fold it over once you begin gluing. 
Once you have cut the edges, take your knife and cute an angled slit at every corner - this allows it to fold when you are lifting the sides up to glue. 
Using Modge Podge, first, glue ONLY the back strip to the letter. 
Now, Modge Podge the top of the cardboard letter. Carefully, making sure to rub out any bubbles, pull the paper across the letter and let it set. 
The edges should still be up and unfolded. 
 Taking the Modge Podge again, glue down the edges, making sure to fold them tight. This is where your little slit cuts will come in handy. Notice how they form very nicely in the corners without bubbling up.
 NOTE: On circular letters, such as b's, p's, d's, you will need to make lots of little cuts all around the circular section so that the paper will form without bubbling. 
In the end, you are left with some very professional looking letters! Whoo hoo! 
Here they are displayed right now in my classroom. This summer I will be putting them in my travel inspired guest room :0) To see more of my geography inspired room visit THIS post for a tour. 
  On a humorous side note: I mentioned that the maps were from an old 1970's atlas. It was interesting to see how much has changed in the world since then. Yugoslavia was still on here, Burma, and the USSR! 

A Grandma. A Gangster. A Cheerleader, and A Detective.

No, this is not the beginning of a joke :) 
These are the four characters that we met today during reading. Most importantly, these characters represent the four different types of summaries. When writing and/or picking out summaries that the "test gods" create and assess, it is important to know that there is a specific kind of summary they are looking for. Enter todays lesson: How to PICK a good summary. I originally got this great lesson idea a while back from Ms. Noran over at                          

Poor Granny, she means well, but she writes such LONG Summaries that she cannot even stay awake during them. She tells EVERYTHING about the story, going into great detail about the beginning, middle, and end. Listening to her is like rereading the entire book. 
The TOTAL opposite of Granny, Shorty's retelling of a story leaves out EVERYTHING! They are too short, too vague, and really don't tell you anything. The important plot points are missing and you are left having no clue what the story was about. 
Silly Sally 
Being a fun loving cheerleader, Sally is very talkative, friendly, and a bit boy crazy. She like, LOVES telling stories, but they aren't like exactly always on track. She often gets like off topic while telling her stories and tends to like exaggerate a lot. Her connections to what she has read are often shallow and don't like really connect with what the author was trying to tell her. 
Detective Dan 
Like all good detectives, Dan always asks the right questions, such as, WHO was involved? WHAT was the problem? WHERE and WHEN did the event take place? WHY did the character do what they did? WHAT is the author trying to tell the reader? HOW did you feel about the story? 
Dan, as you can see, is the correct summary - it answers all the important questions, shares important details, but does not go into great depth.
After meeting our eccentric characters, we drew pictures of them in our notebooks to help use remember what kind of summaries they represented. 

Finally, the kids worked together with their partners to identify DETECTIVE DAN summaries on a mock assessment. I reminded them that it is not as much about finding Shorty, Granny, or silly Sally, if it is wrong don't worry about which wrong - just find DAN! 

 Like Ms. Noran said, this is a FABULOUS lesson for someone who is willing to dress up and go wild with their kids.
They definitely LOVE it and remember it forever if you've got the guts ;0)
On a Side Note: 
During recess a few days ago, I left school to grab some lunch, it took me quite a bit of time to uncover my car from the amount of snow that had accumulated throughout the morning. Upon return, I lifted my windshield wipers up so they would not freeze. Then it hit me .... I went in and found some willing kiddos to help me on our "secret snow elf mission" We went back out and lifted all the windshield wipers on all the cars in the parking lot to help their drivers when they finally left at the end of the day!
Secret Snow Elves in ACTION

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

It's Kind of a Funny Story ...

I find that summarizing can be an extremely difficult concept for students to grasp. It is something that many people, not just kids, struggle with! The ability to break down a story, or retelling of an event, without telling the ENTIRE thing. This week, we dove head first into summarizing narratives. First, we focused on summarizing orally. The students were introduced to our "summary" chart. This chart really breaks down a summary into the most basic parts. Because we have already learned about narrative story elements, it is easy for kids to see that a summary basically takes the major parts of the story elements and restates them. I found my anchor chart HERE off of pinterest.
Like everything, we glued an example of the summary chart in our notebooks to reference. 
To practice orally summaries, I read aloud Martin's Big Words. We have been focusing on him this past week as well as the entire Civil Rights movement in honor of his holiday. After we read, there was a lot of reflections shared and then they got with their partners to share their oral summaries, following the chart. 

 Once we had established strong oral summaries, we moved onto written summaries, following the same chart. I was really impressed with many of the reflections that my kiddos made - this is where depth and reader connection is found! Here are some examples of their written summaries following the read alouds Henry Aaron's Dream: A story about an African American Boy who follows his dream of playing major league baseball - becoming who we now know as "Hank Aaron". And A Sweet Smell of Roses: A fictional story about a young African American girl who marches with Dr. King during the civil rights movement. This books is FILLED with great author's craft including figurative language, repetition, and circling a story. 
Even a connection to Nelson Mandela from our lessons weeks ago following his death. 
Proud teacher moment! 

Tell us what has happened in the PAST: A Grammar lesson

Wrapping up our Verb tense grammar study, we looked at the last tense last week - PAST TENSE. This is definitely the easiest for kids to pick out in reading as well as write independently. The biggest reason for this is I believe that it is the chosen writing tense for stories - much of what they (and most of us) are reading everyday. 

We looked at regular vs. irregular past tense verbs. How regular verbs add an -ed at the end to make it past and irregular verbs do not follow a distinct rule (thank you English language-ha), they simply must be recognized. We worked together to create a simple past and past participle chart of common verbs to help us recognize them.

 Again, like we did with the last two tenses, I encouraged them to look for past tense sentences during their independent reading. This proved to be a MUCH easier task for them and some kids really went wild with it :) 
For our quick assessment, students wrote three past tense sentences using a verb given (to grab, to have, to sing).  
 To wrap up our verb tense study, and in honor of the LOADS of snow we have been enjoying, we had an indoor snowball fight! First, we separated into three different groups - past, present, and future. Then, I had them write a large sentence on a piece of scrap paper in accordance to their group's tense. Afterward, we balled them up into "snowballs" which we then used in a lively winter "fight". 
After lots of "fighting", laughter, and obnoxious screeching, the adjoining teachers to my room are amazing - they put up with a LOT! we grabbed a snowball, sat down, and identified which tense the sentence was sharing. After writing which we believed it was, we balled them up and resumed the friendly winter rivalry - followed by another check of verb tenses and a carpet share time.  
During small group/guided reading, we also focused on verb tenses. Students who have been struggling during the quick assessments were pulled and identified which tense the sentence written on their snow flake belonged. 
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